The saga of Hrafnkel Frey’s Godi

The title in the original Norse is Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða. Hrafnkel is his name, godi means priest (though it also came to mean chieftain or secular power), and Frey was the Norse god of fertility. So it can be translated as the saga of Hrafnkel the priest of Frey. Hrafnkel Frey’s Godi is well-known for being one […]

Laxdæla saga

Second only to the mighty Njal’s saga in number of manuscripts surviving, the ‘saga of the people of Laxdal’ is one of the classics of the genre. Ketil Flat-Nose emigrates to Iceland 1 – Introducing Ketil Flat-Nose and his wife Yngvild, and their five children: sons Bjorn the Easterner and Helgi Bjolan and daughters Unn […]

Njal’s saga 2

‘The seeds of evil have been sown, and evil will be the harvest.’ – Flosi Thordarson Njal’s saga is 159 chapters long. Complementing my earlier post which lists the events of the first 80 chapters, this synopsis lists the events of the second half, starting at chapter 81, immediately after the last stand and death […]

Njal’s Saga 1

‘With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.’ – Njal Thorgeirsson (70) Njal’s saga is 159 chapters long. This synopsis lists the events of the first 80 chapters, up to and including Gunnar’s Last Stand, which forms a natural break half-way through the narrative. The episode of Unn and Hrut Chapters […]

The Vatnsdæla saga (13th century)

Ingimund was a popular figure with all good men (18) Vatnsdæla saga is the chronicle of one family over five generations, starting in Norway and following them through the settlement of the Vatnsdal, a valley that runs south from Hunafloi in the north of Iceland. Ingimundur, the grandson of a Norwegian chieftain, Ketill Raum, fights for […]

Egil’s saga (13th century)

Then Egil said, ‘Let us go back to the farm and acquit ourselves like true warriors: kill everyone we can catch and take all the valuables we can carry.’ (Ch 58) The saga of Egil Skallagrimsson is said to be one of the masterpieces of the genre, along with the sagas of Grettir, Njal and […]

Reading sagas

The Icelandic sagas are about family trees and genealogies, hundreds of pages of them. Occasionally something like an anecdote or short scene emerges from the blizzard of names. The reader of sagas must be prepared: To read the first 30 or 40 pages of names and relations and incidents sprawling over numerous generations, before you […]

Eyrbyggja Saga 1

Plot and characters Eyrbyggja saga follows events on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in west Iceland, starting with the family trees of the first settler who fled Norway under King Harald Fine-Hair to settle the area, through 20 pages or so of the first settlers and their feuds, before it gets to what seem to be the […]

Njal’s Saga (13th century)

‘The hand is soon sorry that it struck’ Brennu-Njals Saga is the longest and most celebrated of the Icelandic Sagas. Like most of the sagas, the events it describes take place in the period 930–1030, which is called söguöld (the Age of the Sagas) in Icelandic history, though scholars have shown the chronology is as […]

The Saga of The Volsungs

‘The Saga of the Volsungs’ is one of the most famous sagas in the Icelandic tradition, briefly telling the stories of the founder and main members of the warlike Volsung dynasty (born, grow to be fine strong king, kill enemies, fall heroically in battle) until it arrives at the legendary Sigurd. Here the pace slows […]